When she brought her baby daughter home from the hospital in 2009, Tara Jones was a college student strapped with thousands of dollars of debt and could barely make ends meet for herself.
“I had no money in the bank, a one-bedroom apartment, a car note, student loans I was already living off of to support her and myself,” Jones recalled. “I was working part time and in school full time. It was a really rough time.”
Jones contemplated dropping out of college but instead decided to stick it out. While working third shift, she continued taking classes toward her biology degree and also began racking up all the knowledge she could about personal finance. “Anything I could get my hands on in relation to financial freedom, debt repayment, building your life over, taking your life to the next level,” Jones said.
By the time she graduated in 2012, Jones had created a financial plan to take back control of her life. “In less than two years, on the financial plan I’d created for myself, I’d paid off over $60,000 in debt, moved out (of my parents’ house), become self-sufficient, tripled my income and had over $10,000 in the bank.”
With her new financial literacy and personal success in gaining her own financial freedom, Jones began helping friends here and there by sharing her knowledge. She said before she knew it, people were seeking her out and asking to pay her for her services.
Jones acknowledged initially sharing her story felt akin to airing one’s dirty laundry. “Money is a very taboo topic, it’s private, personal, you don’t want to tell people what you went through,” she said. “And I already felt guilt and shame for having had a child before marriage and in college — before I was ready — so top off being a single mother, to being a single mother who was struggling financially and who was on public assistance at one point, that wasn’t a story I wore with a badge of honor at all.”
But she quickly realized her personal story was inspirational to others and is a key component in giving her clients hope that they too can overcome obstacles and meet their financial goals. “Now, speaking about money and finances, I am an open book because I realize the more open I am, the more people see themselves in me. The more they’ll realize if she can do it, I can do it. If this single mother who never learned this before can do this, I can, too.”
So, in September 2015, Jones launched Your Pretty Pennies, a video blog where she shares financial tips on a slew of topics from saving money to leveraging credit. The blog has since grown into a full-fledged business, and today, Jones helps others “create the life they desire” full time.
She said she went from sharing “little bits of financial information” to taking classes and becoming a financial success coach.
What sets Jones apart from other finance professionals is the second part of her professional title “lifestyle designer.”
“At first, I almost fell into the trap of doing what other people in my industry do, just teach financial practical tips and how-tos, but they don’t go above and beyond that,” she explained. “They’ll teach you how to pay off debt for the sake of paying it off or saving money for the sake of saving money.”
Jones helps her clients explore the motivation behind saving or debt repayment, and she said the motivating factors are what help someone stay focused on the long-term goal. “If you focus on the lifestyle you desire, you will manage your money to get you to that. You have to stop focusing on the process and focus on what getting out of debt does for you.”
Jones said living paycheck to paycheck is essentially living in financial bondage to someone else.
“The reason why financial freedom is so important is because naturally, biologically, we are created to be free; if we are bound, even if it’s not tangible — debt and being in debt are not a tangible thing. Back in the olden days, if you owed someone, you worked until you paid it off, or you were ‘slaves’ like in Biblical times, slaves to the lender; you had to work for them until the debt is paid.
“In 2019, no you don’t have to work for them, but you work your 9 to 5 to pay someone else. … So essentially, you are working for someone else 40 hours a week and zero hours for yourself. That is not freedom financially, emotionally or physically because every resource you are using, whether it’s your energy, time, money, your attention, emotions, everything, is going to this job. … That is a grueling life; most Americans live that way, and that is why they are overweight, stressed out and they have poor health, etc. It’s because of the financial bondage they are experiencing.
“Just because we aren’t slaves to someone physically, mentally it still feels that way, emotionally it still feels the same because every time you get paid, you can’t do what you desire with your money.”
She noted, “I have created a lifestyle that when I get paid, everything I pay for, whether it’s my mortgage, lights, new shoes, savings, it’s all intentional and everything feels good to pay because it’s all enhancing my lifestyle and I really want other people to feel that way because I know what it feels like not to feel that way.”
Jones said most clients she works with spend three to four months receiving coaching services before being prepared to continue the lessons they’ve learned on their own. She also offers a DIY option, The Financial Reset Online Academy, through her website, and she still operates her video blog, posting financial tips that are available on her website, social media channels and YouTube. Access to these videos is free. GR